second day of tests for animated maquettes

Today Pete Telfer and I worked together to produce three sequences of stop-motion footage featuring some of the Mari Lwyd maquettes. This was by way of comparing the quality of stop-motion movement to the movement created in ‘real-time’ with puppeteers operating a maquette through wire control-rods.

(See the real-time test made on Monday, HERE)

It was quiet, intensely concentrated work. Animating a bipedal Mari Lwyd so that the movement while nightmarish, nevertheless remained plausible, took some doing. I didn’t make an animation sheet to guide me, but busked the whole thing. Head, jaw, neck, chest, pelvis, tail and four legs… each leg with three moveable sections requiring different movement cycles and directions… almost blew the wiring in my brain. Nevertheless, the result isn’t bad. Quite different to the real-time animation, and yet of a quality that has many merits. In the light of these tests I’m quite sure we’ll use both techniques to make our repertoire of moving images.

Do bear in mind when watching the sequences that they are just tests. They’re  not the sequences that will appear in the production, and the stop-motion figures aren’t yet ‘in character’ for the piece. (To me the sequences are rather like those clips of actors making wardrobe tests for films.) I’ve also decided that in the finished puppet sequences, I’ll make something more like the background seen in my original Artlog photographs of the maquettes, as in this image:

Click HERE to see the three test sequences made today.

Above: the lights are bright to be under all day, so dark glasses help protect my eyes.

16 thoughts on “second day of tests for animated maquettes

  1. Brilliant 😀 (and very spooky!) I’m very much inspired to do a bit of stop motion animation again now, I must make time for it one of the days.

  2. The immediate thing that strikes me is the amount of thinking and planning that has to go into making these maquettes move in slow-mo. I love the second one too but whilst I am a fan of animated films as you know I somehow felt more of a connection to the first test. All of it though makes me appreciate the massive amount of work involved before the public turn up to a performance!

    • The first test is my favourite too. But I can see a place for the stop-motion, especially with the mumming figures, which would not work as well if fitted with control-rods and operated in ‘real-time’.

      I think it’s the complexity of the bipedal Mari maquette that lends so much quality to the test done on Monday. All those joints sliding around gave us such a repertoire of movement as we operated the figure. The result to my eyes seems poetic and eerie all in one, and I think the technique will really lend itself to working dramatically with the music.

  3. Your moving Mari has a bit of the dragon about her (him?), and a bit of the shrieking seagull about the head. Regards to Pete–whenever I see his name, I think about recording in his daughter’s room: so odd and funny! And there were puppets that day…

    • I too thought there was a dragon/raptor quality to the head when the jaws gaped, added to the fact that the Mari seems to be flying.

      Yes, it’s good to be collaborating with Pete again. He’s lovely to work with, so calm and focussed.

  4. crazy, crazy…i gotta stop watching these before bed 😀
    the second sequence was my favorite, here, i really like the way the top-hat man interacts with the sheeted horse…
    pretty amazing all around…makes me want to try it again 🙂

    • You should try it again. I found that I got in the zone yesterday, and tried things that I wouldn’t have thought would be possible. Like having characters pass in front of and behind each other. In matters of persistence-of-vision the eye can be quite forgiving of glitches. Because I was working on a slope-board angled for Pete’s camera, the maquettes would occasionally slip slightly out of position. But I’d quickly correct and carry on, and in the final footage everything seems relatively smooth.

  5. Dear Clive,

    Thank you for posting these. I love the liquidity and chaotic poetry of the film in Monday’s post. In today’s video the puppets took on such distinct roles and a narrative emerged – I connected with the characters. This process isn’t one of choice, but synthesis.

    • It’s that liquidity I like most, though I know the strobed stop-motion will have its place too. Now I can see how the maquettes look when animated, I’ll be able to match qualities of movement to the requirements of the text and music.

      I never meant for the Mari to knock down the He/She mummer with the broom. It just got out of hand. I guess that’s the Mari Lwyd for you!

  6. Woo hoo spooky magic Clive! Lovely to see you all manipulating the puppet, then the animation and then the rod maquette. It’s looking really good; love the movements. Have asked a friend to have a look as I think he would find this interesting and hopefully he will get in touch. He’s Max Howard and has worked on things like Roger Rabbit, Lion King, Igor, and with Disney, Warner Bros, Dreamworks and now Exodus. (My Peter played cricket with him). He’s endured us calling him Max Disney and Max Bunny and Maxodus. You would certainly get on with him and he could be a useful contact – you never know where these things can lead.

    • Good description there Jacqui, ‘woo hoo spooky magic’! I like that.

      Just trying out qualities of movement with the tests, compiling a repertoire of techniques for when the time comes to give life to Mark’s music and Damian’s words. The maquette actors are just showing what they can do here. The performances will come later.

  7. Wow, the test shot looking great. I can imagine how trying to do this would make your head explode, but I do like the quality it has. A bit Ray Harryhausen. I love the results of both techniques. The maquette looks stunning either way.

    • I prefer the ‘real-time’ test of the bipedal Mari that we filmed on Monday, to the stop-motion version made today. However, I think the second and third stop-motion sequences work very well, so I can see room for both techniques in the production.

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